April 8, 2010 at 10:16 am , by Julie Bain
I pulled my favorite skinny jeans out of the back of the closet a couple of weeks ago. They’re cropped and one leg has sequins, beads and embroidery running up the side of the leg. I pulled them on and couldn’t get them zipped up. Know that feeling?
I knew I wanted to lose a few pounds, so one week ago I blogged here about a fascinating new study that suggests when you eat certain foods may be as important as what you eat. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that mice who ate more fat than carbs at breakfast metabolized fat and other foods better throughout the day and avoided weight gain. Meanwhile, mice who started out their day with carbs tended to eat more overall, got chubby and developed symptoms that can lead to heart disease. (I’m oversimplifying but that’s the gist.)
I talked with lead study author Molly Bray, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Heflin Center for Genomic Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she says, “If we knew all we need to know about dietary recommendations, we wouldn’t have the increasing obesity we have observed for the past 20 years. Researchers have looked at macronutrients, micronutrients and the role of physical activity in energy balance, but none have considered how the timing of what we eat may affect our health. Perhaps this is one of the key missing elements.”
So I decided to try an experiment inspired by this study: For one week I would eat a fairly high-fat breakfast and no carbs before noon. That was my only restriction, and I wouldn’t change any other habits, such as exercise. I would see what I felt like eating and just, well, follow my gut. So what happened?
Well, I lost four pounds in one week pretty effortlessly, for one thing. And I stopped craving sugary or starchy foods, for another. And I lost two inches in my waist. Read all the details after the jump.
Bacon and eggs photo copyright GOL—Fotolia.com
Thursday, April 1
It felt funny to start this on April Fool’s Day—but it’s not a joke! For breakfast I ate two strips of thick-cut Niman Ranch bacon and an organic mozzarella stick of string cheese, plus espresso—black. At 11 a.m., I wasn’t really hungry, but I had a handful of raw almonds and plain green tea. I wanted to avoid artificial sweeteners before noon, too, because some experts think anything sweet at all can trigger cravings—and I know how I am about craving sweets!
Usually I’d be starving by 1 p.m., but I really wasn’t hungry—at all. It’s not a good idea to skip lunch, though, so I forced myself to eat a medium lentil soup from Pret à Manger (435 calories, 54 g carbs, 13.5 g fiber) and a whole-wheat roll. That’s a lot of carbs! Good carbs, but carbs. I was tempted not to go there, but then that wouldn’t prove the validity of the study, now would it?
At 4:30 p.m., I had two Dove dark chocolate mini Easter eggs. I wasn’t hungry again, so I just had a Pinkberry medium frozen yogurt with coconut, almonds, and raspberries for dinner and felt perfectly satisfied.
Friday, April 2
Weighed myself first thing and was surprised to see I lost two full pounds. Wow. Motivation! You might say, well, you didn’t eat that many calories. But the thing is, I wasn’t hungry! I ate what I wanted.
For breakfast I heated up two mini no-crust quiches made the night before in muffin cups with eggs, spinach, red bell pepper and cheese. (Those are mine, right, based on the famous South Beach Diet recipe, and you can freeze them and reheat them in the microwave.) These became my breakfast staple each morning, with black coffee (luckily I hate sweetened coffee!), and usually followed by some almonds or pistachios or walnuts mid to late morning.
Lunches: Usually I had a big salad with an egg, tofu, chicken or turkey plus feta cheese, avocado, carrots and chickpeas with balsamic vinaigrette. Skipped the chips I usually get to go with it because I wasn’t craving carbs!
Afternoons: If I got hungry I might have four whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter, or a couple of Dove dark chocolate eggs. (I can’t live, even on a diet, without chocolate. No one should have to!)
Dinners: This was a hazardous time of day for me because I had a lot of scheduled social activities, and I couldn’t resist a little wine or beer! For example, Friday night I ate Italian but kept portions small and had a couple of glasses of red wine. Still, I lost another pound by Easter morning!
Sunday, April 4:
On Easter I had a big but healthy lunch with fish and veggies and brown rice. That night I went out with friends and ate Mexican, including two beers. I felt a little bloated and found I gained back half a pound the next morning. But I got back on track Monday.
Monday, April 5:
Monday night I was still full from the lentil soup I had at lunch. I had friends over and grilled steaks and asparagus and didn’t crave any carbs at all except for a small glass of red wine.
Tuesday, April 6:
Tuesday I decided to see how I’d do with no carbs all day long. I wasn’t hungry at all by dinnertime so I just had an enormous steamed artichoke with melted butter for dinner. That worked: I lost another pound by Wednesday morning, for a total of 3½.
Wednesday, April 7:
After a whole day of no carbs the day before, I felt sluggish and low-energy Wednesday morning. That’s why I could never stay on a restrictive low-carb diet for long. So I followed my usual pattern, with complex carbs for lunch and just high-fiber cereal and skim milk for dinner.
Thursday, April 8:
Weighed myself this morning and I lost another half pound for a total loss of four pounds in a week—without really trying! I grabbed the tape measure and found that I also lost two inches from my waist (that abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind for your health). So I grabbed those skinny jeans, pulled them on and zipped them right up. Woo-hoo!
Now, I’m not a doctor and don’t in any way intend to give medical advice here. But I think it was an interesting experiment and I may keep it up for a while and even have my cholesterol and other blood markers checked to see if it had any effects.
Dr. Bray says I chose to be more restrictive on the carbs in the morning than her study did, “But perhaps you have serendipitously come across an important finding,” she says. “I’m so intrigued by your little experiment that I am going to try it myself—I wouldn’t mind losing four pounds! I’ll let you know how your experiment works on me, and then we’ll have a study of two.”
And who knows, maybe Dr. Bray and I will write a diet book together someday!
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